FLAGSTAFF, AZ - A judge who told a woman groped by a state police officer at a Flagstaff bar that she wouldn't have been violated had she not been at the establishment issued an apology Friday for any anguish she caused the victim.
Judge Jacqueline Hatch of Coconino County Superior Court said the comments she made Wednesday during a sentencing hearing were poorly communicated and she failed to uphold her responsibility to ensure that defendants and victims are treated fairly and with respect in the courtroom.
"It was never my intention to make a situation worse for any victim," she said in a statement.
A jury found Robb Gary Evans, 43, guilty of felony sexual abuse after a July trial. Hatch sentenced the former Department of Public Safety officer on Wednesday to two years' probation, community service and treatment. Evans, who was off duty at the time, walked up behind the victim in the bar, put his hand up her skirt and began groping her.
He was fired by DPS after his conviction.
In a telephone interview with the Daily Sun on Thursday, the victim demanded an apology from Hatch. Despite the judge's explanation that the victim wasn't to blame in the case, the woman felt that Hatch accused her of allowing herself to become a victim. The newspaper withheld the woman's name because she is a sexual abuse victim.
"If you wouldn't have been there that night, none of this would have happened to you," Hatch told the woman.
The judge further said that all women must be vigilant against becoming victims. Even going to the grocery store after 10 p.m. can be dangerous, Hatch said.
The Daily Sun wrote in an editorial that while Hatch likely meant well by telling the victim to avoid unnecessary risks, the victim should not have been subjected to a public lecture for standing up for herself after being violated.
"For Hatch to use the occasion to give the victim a lecture on risk avoidance, however well-intentioned, marginalizes the courage it took for the victim of a stigmatized crime like sex abuse to come forward," the newspaper wrote.
Hatch's comments generated a stir online, with an online petition garnering thousands of signatures calling for the judge to resign.
County spokesman Nathan Gonzalez said Hatch has no intention of stepping down.
Hatch, a Republican who was appointed to the bench by Gov. Jan Brewer in June 2010 and elected to a full term that November, said she will apply what she's learned from this case to future cases. Her seat will be up for election in 2014.